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25 years of Shanghai Sunrise - How it all began

Shanghai Sunrise 25th Anniversary

Social media campaign “25 years of Shanghai Sunrise”

Shanghai Sunrise is turning 25 this year! In a series of short articles, we will be taking a walk down memory lane highlighting different aspects of our organization’s work.

Today, we want to look back at how it all began. Who founded Shanghai Sunrise and why?

Education for all?

While working on a documentary in Shanghai in early 1996, Charlotte Ashby, a British film producer, was surprised to often see young school-aged children playing in the streets in the middle of the day. After talking to people, she discovered that many families couldn’t afford to send their kids to school. It wasn’t just school fees; other education-related expenses such as books, uniforms, lunch and transportation were out of their reach. Together with her team, Charlotte wanted to help these kids from poor families attend school. An idea was born: Have her friends in the expat community sponsor local students so they could go to primary school.

Cooperation with SCF

Without local knowledge and connections, taking the next step and making a lasting impact would have been difficult. To find families in need of financial assistance, Charlotte was put in touch with the recently created Shanghai Charity Foundation (SCF). As a new organization at the time, SCF was eager to find charitable causes and happy to work with foreigners who were willing to give back to the local community. Indeed, Shanghai Sunrise’s Chinese name literally meant “Foreign Friends’ Assistance to Education”.

Creation of Shanghai Sunrise

Later that year, a small group of volunteers - Charlotte Ashby, Jade Ding, Julie Chu and Zhang Jun - officially founded Shanghai Sunrise under the umbrella of SCF. A scholarship of 2,500 RMB covered everything from tuition fees and books to glasses and lunch money. Jade Ding, a teacher and SCF worker assigned to this project, has been in charge of selecting disadvantaged students for the scholarships ever since. The first pairing ceremony was held at the Hilton Hotel with eight students and their sponsors. The rest like they say, is history.


Celebrate Shanghai Sunrise’s 25th anniversary at our fundraising gala on December 4th:


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